“It’s What We Do” Police Commissioner Bratton’s Remarks at the Funeral of Detective Randolph Holder

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What makes a police officer? Is it courage? Is it compassion? Is it a calling? It’s all of these. All these things make a cop, but one thing most of all: we keep people safe. It’s what we do. It’s what Police Officer Randolph Holder did so proudly throughout his all too brief career.

Keeping people safe is what brought Randy to this Job. It’s what brought him and his partner, Police Officer Omar Wallace, to a highway footbridge in pursuit of a dangerous man. They went there knowing the dangers, making a choice that keeping people safe was more important. It’s what we do. And it’s what they did.

Why do we do it? In this country, service is not a requirement. As a nation we do not compel it. You can go through your life without doing anything for anyone other than yourself. Some people do. Not many, thankfully, but some. Many more live ordinary lives, and offer help to others when they can, but they don’t serve.

Randy served. Cops serve. It’s what we do. And for those who serve, for those who choose to place the lives of others above their own, the rewards are many. One of Randy’s friends said: “He loved the Job. It was what he wanted to do, being a cop. His dad was a cop, his grandfather was a cop. It was his family business.” His reward was a life that mattered, every day—a life of significance.

I’m told that at PSA 5 they called him the “Doctor.” They say he could memorize the faces in the neighborhood, routes they took, names and addresses. This was a useful talent for a Housing cop—for any cop. Transit, Patrol, Housing: the job is the same but the nuances differ.

Ask any Housing cop about the elevators, the stairwells, Pebble Beach. Ask about the thousands of good people in public housing, who struggle with the handful of bad ones, the ones we must do a much better job of excluding from the Housing Authority. Ask about the responsibility—keeping the many safe from the few. It’s what we do.

In five years at PSA 5, Randy had built a mental database: the good folks; the bad guys; the kids teetering on the edge between them. Like all cops, he was the balance between them, who lived as a guardian, watching over the good… and died as a warrior, fighting against the bad. Because being able to be both is part of what we do.

His friends said Randy had the calm, smooth demeanor of a 15-year vet. No complaints against him, no discipline. He had courage, and compassion, and this Job was certainly his calling.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether public safety is slipping, about whether crime is moving up or down, about whether the anti-cop sentiment has made our work more dangerous, about whether cops are pulling back. The fact of the matter is, it’s always been potentially dangerous. Shootings, robberies and murders are near historic lows, but pockets of crime remain in our city because there are evil people in this world. Most people avoid the evil ones at all costs. As cops, we seek them out.

Randy and his partner Omar knew what they were approaching that night—a shootout, a robbery, a man with a gun. They went towards the danger. They didn’t pull back. Why? It’s what we do.

Randy’s father, and his grandfather before him, were cops in their native Guyana. And when Randy’s dad, Randolph, came here, he served as an auxiliary in the 101 Precinct, because once you’ve felt the pride of service, the satisfaction of helping others, and the meaning of keeping people safe—the calling—it’s hard to stop. In Guyana or Harlem, it’s what we do.

In Guyana, Randy’s father wore shield number 9657. He wore it with such pride that it pushed Randy to follow his dad’s example. When Randy was sworn in, we issued him Shield 13340. He did it proud, just as he did his family proud, and his Department proud, and our City proud. And for that, today, I posthumously promote Police Officer Randolph Holder, Shield 13340, to Detective First Grade, and issue him Shield 9657.

The 9000 series began a little less than a year ago, with Detectives Ramos and Liu, and was cast again for Detective Moore. I said then that I hoped we would never see another, but I knew that was an idle hope. Why? Because of what we do.

Today I’d also like to acknowledge Randy’s partner, PO Omar Wallace, for what he did. He defended us, and he defended his partner. Even as he was engaged in a gun battle with the suspect, wounding him, Omar kept his head and followed his training, radioing critical information that led directly to the suspect’s capture. And imagine the moment, the agony of the choice: continue the pursuit or return to your partner. I’d like to think that Randy knew Omar’s decision, and was comforted by it. But when you’re willing to risk everything, sometimes it will cost you everything. It’s what we do.

And now mourning is what we do, as well. Randy’s family at home will miss him. His family in blue will miss him. He loved his family and friends, spanning two continents—Randolph, Princess, his brothers and sisters. And he loved you, Mary and Sieann [SEE-EHN]. I hope you can take some comfort in that. But no words of comfort offered by any of us today will pierce the veil of sorrow you all wear. But nonetheless, we will try, for we have chosen a life of service… It’s what we do.

Sometimes, it can be hard for people who don’t choose a life of service to understand. At some point, every cop has gotten the question: “Why do you do it? Why do you want to be a cop?” It certainly isn’t for the long hours, the last-minute assignments, the missed holidays. It isn’t for the stress, or the anxiety our loved ones feel. It isn’t for glory or recognition—which all too often come only on days like this.

The city—indeed this country—doesn’t know its cops until it’s too late.

Because here in New York there are 35,000 Randy Holders. There are 35,000 Brian Moores, 35,000 Rafael Ramoses, 35,000 Joe Lius, 35,000 Michael Williamses, 35,000 Dennis Guerras. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, immigrant.

No one casually chooses a job that can end up here. We choose it because keeping people safe is worth it. Preventing crime and disorder is worth it. Being part of something that has improved millions of lives every day is worth it. And so we swear an oath, and make a promise. Randy kept his promise — to his family, to his Department, and to himself.

Cops know this job has risks. We accept it. But the risk we accept is that bad people do bad things—NOT that the public will abandon us when bad things happen to bad people and we’ve acted lawfully.

The sense that this can happen has always been there for cops, but it seems more pronounced now. And it’s implied when people ask “why do you do it?” In fact, we ask it of ourselves. Every new recruit must answer the same question: “Why did you become a Police Officer?” They type out their responses and submit them to their Academy instructor. Every recruit, including Randy Holder.

This is what he told us:

July 10, 2010

My name is Randolph Holder, born March 19, 1982 in Georgetown, Guyana. Growing up, all I wanted to do was to make a difference in my community and become a role model. In November of 2002 I migrated to the United States of America to live with Father.

My first real job was working as a security officer. Most of the managers were retired NYPD officers, and they always talked a lot about how they changed their communities. That’s when I decided I could be a role model and make a difference in my community and in New York City… In December, 2010, I will graduate from the NYPD Academy to become a police officer in the greatest police Department in the world.

For your information.

Randolph Holder
Probationary Police Officer

Randy, you were indeed a role model. You made a difference. You touched the lives of your family, your colleagues, your community, your city, and now your country. And from your loss we can take this: We can change the fact that the city came to know you too late.

Because even though service is not compelled in this county, public safety is a shared responsibility. We ALL have to come together to help the good people, to get the evil people off the streets, to steer the kids on the precipice to the right side, to keep people safe. It can’t just be what cops do—it has to be what we ALL do.

And THAT will be a fitting legacy for Detective First Grade Randy Holder, shield number 9657, who served us all. If we want to remember him, and to honor him, coming together to finish his work is the way. It’s what we do. It’s what we ALL—community and police—need to do.

It’s our shared responsibility.

REMARKS AS PREPARED